I’ve thought of a new acronym. It stands for Too Much Shopping.
On Saturday I found myself in Walmart, having a whispered, but heated, argument with Ian about hand-held vacuum cleaners, in my view a necessity for maintaining adequate cleanliness and hygiene on the boat. It was the first of our shopping forays to get the boat sorted and equipped before we set off on the Great Loop for real, and the objective was non-food household items.
Arguments when we go shopping are not that uncommon, which is why we don’t shop together very often, but as I can’t drive in the US I had to be accompanied. What was bizarre about this particular argument was that I wanted the sturdy, 18v, dark grey Black & Decker job with the ergonomic handle and the two auxiliary crevice tools, while Ian considered that the flimsy, 12v pink one that cost only a few dollars less would be perfectly adequate. I’ve sometimes had to quote Ruskin on the subject of value for money, but fortunately it wasn’t necessary on this occasion. Besides, compared with the plethora of must-have electronic gadgets we have acquired at some expense over the last fortnight, from the laptop, the dongle, and the GPS gadget to the personal wifi hotspot, the vacuum cleaner seemed to me a minor expense.
Yesterday’s shopping task was filling up the boat with diesel. This could have been left until we were leaving St Pete, but Ian thought he needed practice at missing other boats in the marina, and I needed practice at lassoing the poles on the dock, and throwing ropes to people.
Ian had radioed the marina office to say we were coming to refuel, and we were met by a man from the marina, who greeted us with “Hey Ainsworths. Where do y’all get those cute Alabama accents?’ Difficult one, really.
He addressed Ian as Captain, at the end of every sentence. This was abbreviated to ‘Capt’ but the p was silent, so that the conversation went along the lines of ‘You got a line there, Ca’t?’ ‘Hold it right there, Ca’t’.
91 gallons of diesel later, we were done, but Ca’t had unfortunately left his credit card in TGI Fridays the day before, so the first mate had to pay.
This involved getting off the boat and going up to the marina office. Normally I am not very brave about jumping off and on the boat, but perhaps because of Marina Man’s presence, I took a determined leap and landed with a good two feet to spare and my dignity intact.
“You’re just like my wife,’ Marina Man said, admiringly. “Great woman. Lousy taste in men.’
Downtown St Pete is quite posh. Straub Park overlooks the marina, and the palms and other trees provide a cool green space between the bayfront and the sea. There are some elegant apartment blocks between the treelined avenues and lots of nice places to sit out and admire the view with lunch or just a coffee. It’s busy with smartly-dressed people of all ages.
On Saturday night it was heaving. We were tired after the shopping marathon, and Ian fancied going to eat at The Moon under Water, which described itself as an English pub.
Usually I’m suspicious of such places when they are not actually in England, but the Moon does go back to Colonial times, and the name refers to the practices of the Press Gangs. The Army recruiters would slip a silver shilling into drinks. If anyone drank from a vessel (pewter in those days) with a silver shilling at the bottom, they would be deemed to have taken the Queen’s Shilling and forced to join up. The pewter vessels started being made with glass bottoms, so you could pick it up before drinking, and see if there was a shilling (the moon) at the bottom of the drink (under the water).
Anyway, on Saturday night there was a 25-minute wait for a table. We were hungry, but the next place was too expensive. Everywhere else on the bayfront was busy. Getting dispirited, we followed a sign to a Thai restaurant into a rather dingy shopping mall, when suddenly there was loud music coming from a bar, and realising it was a live performance, we went in for a drink and to hear some amazing Bluegrass/ country music performed by a motley crew with guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. Just one of those serendipitous happenings that make travelling so enjoyable. We went back to the pub, and the wait had increased to 45 minutes. But it didn’t matter. We found a nice Caribbean restaurant a couple of blocks away,and had a great meal there.
We went back to the pub on Sunday night. Inside, it looked like one of those Victorian pubs in London or Manchester, high ceilings, lots of pewter tankards hanging up and deep-buttoned leather upholstered seating. And the food was good there too.
The shopping is finished. Of course there were the lifejackets and other boating necessities to be got from West Marine, and we did the final food shop today at Publix, which is to Walmart as Waitrose is to Aldi. Tonight it will be dinner on Carina for the first time.
We’re ready to roll, except that tomorrow it’s going to be rainy, windy and the sea will be choppy. So departure for Longboat Key is now scheduled for Thursday.